By Lucy Chabot Reed
A familiar name in shipyards has opened a new facility in Puerto Rico.
John Spencer, a former superintendent at Merrill Stevens and then head of Spencer Boat Company, left the Miami yard about a year ago, and has been busy since paving the way for yachting facilities in the U.S. territory.
On Sept. 16, he and his business partners, including Paul Madden of Paul Madden Associates, signed the leases on both a shipyard property and a marina property in San Juan. The two properties eventually will offer megayacht-quality amenities and service.
“I’m having fun doing this,” he said, smiling as pulled out his iPad yesterday to show the Google maps of the locations.
Port Caribe Shipyard is on the old Navy base on the south side of Isla Grande south of Old San Juan and includes a 1500-foot pier and 640-foot graving dock, which hasn’t been used in 22 years, Spencer said. Renovations are under way, and he’s got a 30-year lease on the land.
Just west of the yard is a new convention center, and just west of that is a 5,500-foot runway.
Port Caribe Marina is on the south coast of Old San Juan and has a half mile of waterfront, giving yachts the option to dock alongside. Two bulkheads offer 300 feet of dockage that will eventually be stern-to. He’s got a 50-year lease with the government on this property.
Both facilities welcomed their first yachts this week, Spencer said.
“It’s all American,” he pointed out. “There’s no duty, Americans don’t even need a passport to go there. I flew up yesterday. It took 2 hours 7 minutes. It’s like flying to Atlanta.”
Other selling points include the low cost of fuel compared to other parts of the Caribbean, the ease of provisioning thanks to the presence of cruise ships, and ample stores such as West Marine and Home Depot.
“The infrastructure is there,” Spencer said. “I’m hoping captains will add it to their list of options for service in the region.”
Port Caribe has about 20 employees so far, and Spencer said he welcomes a yacht’s vendors for refit and maintenance.
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of Triton Today. Comment below.